It seems like those in power are starting to get very worried, and therefore have gone over onto the counterattack. All across the country, they are herding people to pro-Putin rallies, handing out stenciled posters, then declaring what huge support he has.
On February 4, the very day when the opposition demonstration was to take place on Moscow’s Yakimanka ulitsa, they bused in a huge number of people for a pro-Putin meeting at Poklonnaya Gora, with promises to pay the demonstrators as well as, it was rumored, to pass out free vodka.
I live near Poklonnaya Gora (a park and site of a World War II monument), and when my daughter and I left our building in order to head over to Yakimanka, it was absolutely horrific. Crowds with all sorts of strange people were walking down the street, clearly having just been bused in from little towns and villages in the Moscow region. The heftily-built men were already drunk, and obviously very happy that they would be able to drink some more. Yet the saddest thing was that, among them were Moscow teachers. The call had gone out to all the schools: send five teachers each to the demonstration. Everyone knew all about this, but practically no one spoke about it openly. They didn’t try to force anyone from our school to go to the pro-Putin rally. I gather it was because we did not shrink from encouraging our graduates to attend the December 16 opposition rally. There was a bit of a scandal, but now they don’t touch us.
At the pro-Putin rally, apparently someone asked from the podium, “Is there anyone who was brought here against their will?” The crowd chuckled and gleefully cried out, “Noooo!” After this the audience was told that Putin is the foundation for stability, and people should not rock the boat.
Over on Yakimanka, things were very lively indeed. The crowd was very diverse and, as always, their creative spirit was in full swing. Each poster was funnier than the last. One had portraits of Kaddafi, Lukashenko, Stalin and Putin – the first three of course with mustaches. Under the portraits was a line from Diamond Arm, one of Russians’ favorite and most popular movies: “Why did Volodka shave off his ‘stash?”
A graduate of our school and some of his friends carried a huge banner (in English): “No Putin No Cry.” [A reference to the Bob Marley song, “No Woman, No Cry”.] Next to them, practically being carried along, was an old woman. Judging by the huge number of medals on her chest, she had been through the entire Second World War, which means she was about 90. She had a huge poster on her back: “I vote for a presidential term of 3-5-10-25 years, but not in the Kremlin… in Kolyma.” Now that’s a woman!
And the excellent writer Dmitry Bykov was carrying a poster that quickly became the symbol of the anti-Putin rally: “Don’t rock the boat, it’s making the rat sick!”
Photo credit: Zzabavka
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